A Washington sheriff’s deputy is bringing smiles to the faces of Special Olympic athletes during quarantine.
Kristi Bridgman of Seattle, Wash., has been a deputy with the King County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years. Outside of her job, she also has a passion for supporting those in her community with disabilities, participating in grassroots efforts to raise money for the international Special Olympics. Bridgman tells Yahoo Life that in the past she has participated in polar plunges and handed out medals after Special Olympics Washington games, which are typically held in June.
“They’re so accepting,” she says of the athletes, “They love everybody, they’re giving high-fives to their opponents and even if they lost, they have a great attitude. They don’t care about labels, you know, male, female, black, white, whatever your sexual orientation. None of that matters.”
Inspired by a Canadian law enforcement colleague, Bridgman decided that she would encourage Special Olympics Washington athletes to keep being active during the pandemic with her “10-A-Day Till It’s OK” challenge. For the past month, the deputy has visited one athlete a day to do fun workouts and has shared the heartwarming videos of their exercises to social media. As of Monday afternoon, she’s made 34 visits and counting.
“Those with intellectual disabilities, once they age out of high school, they don’t really have a social life unless they participate in things like Special Olympics or unless they have an actual job, and a lot of them don’t have jobs so they don’t have that community interaction,” Bridgman explains. “So a lot of them get isolated in their homes and don’t have those friendships that are built and some of them don’t have the ability to use social media to get in contact with their friends either.”
Frankie Armstrong is one of the athletes Bridgman has worked out with. His mother, Vivian Armstrong, tells Yahoo Life that Frankie has been a part of the Special Olympics Washington since he was 9 years old usually participating in track and field as well as basketball.
“He’s got so much energy, it’s literally nonstop,” she says.
With stay-at-home orders in place, Armstrong says that her son loves people and does not understand that he cannot just run up to them to give them hugs during the pandemic. She adds that she is so thankful to Bridgman, who has been very supportive of Frankie, even arranging a parade of police cars to celebrate his 30th birthday just last month. He also lives for the exercises he gets to do with his favorite officer.
“If Kristi says, ‘let’s run around the block,’ he’s gonna run around the block...When she comes over, it brightens his day. And it seems like his day is fulfilled after he does those exercises,” she says.
Bridgman says that she’s touched by the comments she’s received on the workout videos she’s shared.
“It’s so warming, just seeing the smile on their faces is incredible to me,” she says of the visits. “When you do good, you feel good, everybody likes that. Those athletes enrich my life more than I think I can ever enrich theirs. I go do my thing and I don’t expect kudos for it because the athletes enough are my kudos and I try to reflect that through the athletes.”
Bridgman says she plans on continuing to exercise with one athlete a day through June 1. Following June 1, she plans to continue the workouts a few times a week.
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